Jesus and Judas
Bible Text: John 13:18 – 38 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: John – Encountering the Word | John 13:18 – 38
Jesus and Judas
The most hated name in history
On the 17th of May 1966, Bob Dylan was playing a concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, as part of his World Tour.
There was a quiet moment between songs in the second half, when someone in the audience yelled out at Dylan, one word,
The Guardian newspaper lists that moment as the 10th most significant event in the history of music.
What could Bob Dylan have possibly done, to deserve that?
Well, I’m sure some of you know, actually!,
Dylan’s “sin”, was that having played the first half of the concert, in the style of the folk revival of which he was considered the preeminent artist:, acoustic guitar and harmonica,
In the second half, he abandoned his Martin acoustic guitar, and played, with an electric guitar!
Late last year, 46 years after the event, Dylan spoke of that accusation in an interview. He said “Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. and for what?”, He went on, “For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable, to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. “
And you think “oh that sounds very Christian and compassionate”, but then he goes on, “All those evil dot dot dot can rot in hell.”
But he’s right about one bit isn’t he, it’s the most hated name in human history!
Names from the Bible are popular with parents as they choose names for their children, but not this one!
I hate to think how a little 5 year old Judas would go on his first day of school,
So this morning, we’re going to spend our time in the first half of this passage, thinking about Judas.
If it is the most hated name in history as Dylan says, it will be good for us to understand exactly why!
But even more than that, in looking at Judas, I hope we come away with a clearer picture of Jesus.
Jesus will be betrayed
If you were with us last week, you’ll remember we saw Jesus demonstrating costly, self-giving, status-costing service, to his disciples, and he said, there in verse 17, Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them
Of course, we know, there was one disciple who wouldn’t take these things from knowledge to action,
He wouldn’t follow Jesus’ example of costly service, but in fact would betray Jesus, for his own financial benefit.
Jesus will be betrayed in fulfilment of Scripture
But not only is Jesus aware that this is going to happen,
Here we see that Jesus understands the betrayal as fulfilment of what God had said centuries earlier in the Scriptures.
this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.
It’s a quote from Psalm 41, where King David, cries out to God, as his enemies circle,
Even my close friend, David says,
someone I trusted,
one who shared my bread,
has turned against me.
In the ancient near East, there were significant cultural expectations tied up with hospitality, and eating together.
It was considered particularly disgraceful, to turn against someone, who had maybe welcomed you into their house, and shared their own food with you.
And literally, David says, my enemy has “lifted up his heel against me.”
Some scholars think that it’s an image of a horse kicking back with its foot, and so they say this metaphor conveys an unexpected and violent response.
Now I don’t know much about horses, but I do know they kick! I’ve watched enough Funniest Home Videos to know that! So “unexpected” doesn’t really seem to explain it, does it?
Most likely it’s related to the fact that even today, in many Middle-Eastern cultures, to show your feet is offensive,
To show the bottom of your feet, disgraceful
Think of that Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi throwing his shoes at George W Bush. It wasn’t just that they were the only projectiles he had handy, it was more of an insult, culturally, to throw his shoes, than whatever else might have been within reach.
This is a picture of the worst kind of treachery imaginable.
But Jesus understands it as a fulfilment of the Scriptures, and he wants his disciples to understand, when it looks like events are spinning out of control, “No, no, this is happening exactly as God said it would.”
How is the Psalm fulfilled in Jesus?
But this gives us an opportunity to side-step out of John chapter 13 for just a moment, and to think briefly, about how we understand passages like Psalm 41 being fulfilled in Jesus.
As Christians, we believe that the Bible is a unified story of God’s plans for redemption and rescue, which centre on Jesus.
Jesus could teach his disciples, for example, in Luke 24, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Now, as I said, Psalm 41 was written by David, king of Israel, God’s chosen leader,
It sounds like Jesus, doesn’t it?
But not every aspect of the Psalm is true of Jesus.
Verse 4, for example, where David says “Have mercy on me, Lord; heal me, for I have sinned against you.”, clearly that’s not something that can be true of Jesus, who was without sin.
But for the Psalm to be prophetic and fulfilled in Jesus, doesn’t require that every word or phrase have some parallel in Jesus’ life.
But we understand Psalm 41, many other passages like it, to find their fulfilment in Jesus, because both the Old Testament and the New Testament, picture King David as a model, a precursor of Jesus.
So places like 2 Samuel 7, God promises to David, that he will raise up one of David’s descendants, to be shepherd and king over God’s people forever.
Or Psalm 2, where God says that he will raise up a king who will rule not just Israel, but all the earth.
These kind of verses, taught God’s people in Old Testament, and they teach us, to look for a king like David,
The technical term that scholars use is “type.”
David was a “type” of Christ. Not type as in variety, there are different types of apples, think more like proto-type, a model of,
Something that points towards,
And prepares us for,
So to see David as a type of Jesus, means that the broad themes of David’s life prepare us for what we can expect to see in Jesus’ life,
And so some of the particular events that are highlighted for us in the life of King David’s, help us recognise king Jesus, and they help us understand what his life is going to be like.
Lots of young boys, and maybe girls, cut out pictures of fancy cars from magazines, wishing, hoping, one day to own the real thing.
If somehow, that boy is given the Ferrari, for his 16th birthday, he realises that the magazine cut-out is really just a poor shadow of the actual object.
When the real thing is sitting outside in the driveway, you don’t spend all night gazing at the crumpled paper cut-out, do you?
But because the Messiah, God’s chosen king, was pictured for God’s people as one who would be like King David, they knew that when someone who fitted David’s model came,
especially in terms of someone whose life fitted the suffering, and weakness, and unjust trials, so often pictured in David’s life, , God’s people knew, when they saw that person,
When they saw those Scriptures being fulfilled in the life of another,
They could say, “Here is God’s king”, “Here is the Messiah.”
Jesus will be knowingly betrayed for God’s redemptive purposes
So Jesus goes on in verse 19, “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am who I am. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me
See Jesus’ knowledge at how things are going to turn out, has another result, it allows Jesus to demonstrate his identity to his disciples.
Back in Deuteronomy chapter 18, God promised that one day he would raise up a prophet like Moses, from among his people.
And this wouldn’t be just any old prophet, but if you like, the “ultimate prophet.” And you might be aware of places in the New Testament where people speak about “The Prophet”, that’s who they’re talking about, Deuteronomy 18, the prophet like Moses.
Having promised that, it’s almost as if God immediately anticipates a question from the Israelites, “Well, how will we know a prophet, the prophet, or any prophet, how will we know one when we see one?”, God goes on to say straight away, “You’ll be able to tell a true prophet,
Someone really speaking for me,
Someone really acting for me,
Because what they say, will always come true.
No matter what they promise, or prophesy,
No matter how unbelievable or impossible it seems at the time,
When what they say comes true, you’ll know you’ve found the real deal.
And what do we know?
This betrayal takes place exactly as Jesus promised it would, showing that Jesus can be considered the prophet like Moses, promised by God.
He is the one he claims to be, I am who I am.
But Jesus’ isn’t just saying, “If these things all unfold as I said they will, then you’ll know that I’m truthful, and I can be trusted.”
It’s more than that.
That language I am who I am, echoes the personal name of God by which he made himself known to his people.
When God called Moses, to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt in Exodus chapter 3, Moses asked God, “Well, if the Israelites ask me, ‘Who’s God? Who sent you?’, then who do I say you are?”, and God said “Tell them, ‘I am who I am.’
Jesus says, “I’m telling you this, so that might know, “I am, who I am”
And so when we hear those words, that name, in the New Testament, our minds ought to go instantly back to the Exodus, and the great rescue from slavery that God, the I am, won for his people.
We hear these words, we ought immediately have in our mind, an understanding of the faithful redeeming God of Israel, who goes after his people to rescue them, when they are in so far over their heads, and can do nothing about their terrible situation themselves, and have nothing to offer God.
Do you see the layer,
Of Jesus identity, and his purpose, being stacked up here?
Here’s the greater king David,
God’s chosen king,
Here is the one who the Scriptures promised would come.
Here is the long-awaited prophet like Moses, truthful, trustworthy, authenticated,
Here is the redeeming God, who in another greater redemption, goes after his people to rescue them, when they are in so far over their heads, and can do nothing about their terrible situation themselves, and have nothing to offer God.
Jesus will be betrayed by Judas
John then picks up the theme of betrayal again, and observes that having said these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit. “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
The words describing Jesus’ troubled spirit there, are the words used in the Bible to picture the churning waves of a huge waterfall. So if you’ve ever stood at Niagara Falls, or Victoria Falls, or even the little South Australian equivalents, and you’ve stared at the churning, swirling, whirlpool at the bottom of the waterfall, that’s the picture of Jesus’ distress.
Margaret Thatcher passed away this week. In the various reports and obituaries I read, one of the frequently repeated descriptions of her as a leader, was that she was impassive, unflappable, unless George Negus was interviewing her, of course, and that might be good in a Cold War era British Prime Minister, but it’s not the picture we ought to have of Jesus.
Do you see the humanity of Christ?
Do you see the Son of God, deliberately and painfully submitting his will, to the will of his Father?
I’ve spoken before of the little girl who was too scared of the dark one night, to go to sleep, and so she calls out from her room, “Mummy, come and be with me.”
Mum thinks, OK, time to teach some theology, and so she calls back, “it’s OK, God is there with you in your bedroom”.
Little girl thinks about this for a moment, and then she calls back, , “Yes, I know that . but I want someone with skin”.
I don’t know how much, at times, you might long for someone with skin.
Perhaps you long for a God who understands your situation,
And knows what you’re going through,
Who knows what it’s like to face sorrow, and distress,
To be distraught at the turmoil of broken relationships, and betrayal.
Perhaps you long for a God, who knows what it’s like, to look down the barrel of whatever’s in front of you, and know that there is only one way forward, and that is through that trial, or humiliation, or suffering, the valley of the shadow of death.
If that is you, now, or ever in your life, the Apostle John says to you this morning, behold your God.
The power and activity of sin in the world distress Jesus, not least of all, when he comes face to face with the work of Satan himself.
Jesus knows that his betrayal by Judas will lead to him being cut off from his Father, facing the full force of his Father’s righteous anger at sin,
Jesus is troubled in spirit, as he sees the destructive work of Satan wreaking havoc on the lives of people created by God.
Friends, here’s your God with skin.
Of course, as we see throughout the gospel account, Jesus’ disciples just don’t understand.
Read with me from verse 22, 22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask him which one he means.”
25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.
This is the moment, verse 22, that Leonardo da Vinci captured in his painting The Last Supper.
And this question, “Who can Jesus be talking about?”
Who is this disciple and what can he teach us?
Verse 23 is the first time we encounter this reference, the one whom Jesus loved.
We can work out, from reading the rest of John’s gospel, that this disciple is none other than our author, the apostle John.
Why use this kind of anonymous self-reference?
Firstly, John’s original readers knew that he’d written it, so when in chapter 21, the author of the gospel is identified with this language, the Christians in the early church would have just nodded and said, “Yes, we know that John wrote this.”
It’s significant actually, that the 4 gospels, when they were first written down, and circulated among the early church, they didn’t have the name of the author printed in big letters at the top. They were published anonymously, and yet were still regarded as the genuine testimony about Jesus.
In contrast, the false gospels that came along 100, 150 years later, claiming to represent the truth about Jesus, these are the ones you hear about in the “ground breaking” TV documentaries in the weeks before Easter each year, it was these false gospels, that had names attached to them, claiming to be written by this apostle, or that apostle, as an attempt to be considered more authoritative.
The true, historical accounts of Jesus’ life, needed no artificial “celebrity endorsement” for them to be accepted. They were simply recognised from the outset, as the historical facts concerning the life and ministry of Jesus.
So John didn’t need to explicitly give his name.
But secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it’s worth us noting that to say, the “the disciple whom Jesus loved” isn’t a way of saying, “the one Jesus loved more than he loved the others”!
It’s not like someone saying, “Well, I’m the child that my parents loved”, implying that they didn’t love my siblings. That’s the way it reads to us, but in reality it’s quite the opposite, it’s an expression of wonder and amazement, “Jesus loves me!
Professor Don Carson, some of you have read his books, he says it implies, “a profound sense of indebtedness to grace (‘What a wonder—that I should be loved by the incarnate Word!)”
And so it’s a means of John, the author, even though he was right there in the midst of these events, he symbolically steps back, to ensure that the attention is on Jesus, and his work.
It’s why theologians call John the “ideal disciple.”
Not out for his own glory,
Not thrusting himself forward,
But witnessing to Jesus, such that people see him, clearly and unadulterated.
In everything his goal is that Jesus receives the glory.
That’s not a bad pattern of discipleship to follow, is it?
Drawing attention away from ourselves, and to Jesus.
It’s a particular challenge for those of us who serve publicly.
How do I ensure people are drawn, not to Clayton, but to Christ?
But actually for any of us, up-front or not, in evangelism,
Or taking a younger Christian under our wing,
It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to make them like me,
But my goal should be to see them become like Christ.
So it’s to this “model disciple”, that Peter signals, “Ask him which one he means”
Verse 25, Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?
And the devastating answer comes, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”, Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot
Look down a few lines with me, a
Verse 27, Jesus says Judas, “What you are about to do, do quickly. , But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him., 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.
See Jesus’ answer, “the one who will betray me is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread, that answer seems to be given only to John, those later verses make it clear that the others have no idea what Judas is about to do, and so either they didn’t hear, or they didn’t understand that Jesus was answering the question.
In any case, Jesus’ method of answering the question, gives Judas one last choice .
One final offering of love,
One last appeal,
But Judas took the bread, fed by the hand, of the one he was about to betray.
Friends, it is possible, to hear even the greatest offer and invitation from Jesus,
To see his ultimate offering of love, not just here, but on the cross the following day,
It is possible, to see the depths of God’s love, demonstrated in Christ,
To take good gifts from God’s hand, and yet to walk away, and turn your back on God.
If you’re here this morning and you think, “Well I’m not a Christian, but if I’d been there,
If I’d seen Jesus’ miracles,
If I’d heard him teach,
If I’d seen him do the things recorded in the Bible, well then I’d believe,
If that’s you, then please see the warning in Judas’ life, You can be an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, and still turn your back on God.
And if you are a Christian, and you think, “If only my friends could witness some miraculous sign, then they’d believe.,
Judas shows us, You can witness the most miraculous ministry that has ever unfolded on the face of the earth, and still walk away from God.
Jesus will be betrayed because Satan is at work
Verse 30, As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
And it was night. That’s a nice little eye-witness touch, isn’t it? It’s like John, reflecting on these events all those years later,
This very moment is burned into his mind, and he thinks, “Yeah, I remember, Judas opening the door, and I just remember noticing how dark it was out there.”
We also know, though, that John points out these kinds of details, so he can use the symbolism of day and night, light and darkness,
To show the contrast between spiritual light, and spiritual darkness.
Those who are close to God, and those who are far from God.
This darkness, though real, an eye-witness detail, underscores the spiritual darkness,
The opposition to God and his purposes,
There’s a separation, those who are in the light, and those who are in darkness.
The power of Satan at work, as the betrayer makes his final decision, to go through with his plan.
Verse 27, As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him
So Judas isn’t just acting all on his own, the forces of evil, Satan himself are aligned against Jesus.
But that doesn’t mean, as we touched on last week, that Judas was driven by “fate”, or that he was powerless against “the will of God.”
Judas had a choice:
Actually it’s a choice we all have to make,
How will respond to God come in the flesh
See even though his betrayal was a fulfilment of Scripture, Judas still very willingly chose his course of action.
It’s the same with Jesus’ death.
We know this was an event, spoken about in the Old Testament, and yet Jesus still had to choose, willingly, to lay down his life, to pay for the sin and rebellion of the world.
Neither the fact of the Old Testament fulfilment, nor the reality of the spiritual opposition, diminishes Judas’ responsibility.
But the reality of the spiritual opposition, does give us a greater understanding of Jesus’ work on the cross, doesn’t it?
See in taking away sin, and dying as a substitute for sinful people, Jesus completely thwarts Satan’s plan.
Satan’s work in seeking the betrayal and suffering and death of Christ actually ends up achieving the very opposite of what Satan intended.
Do you see that?
Satan did not think the cross would end in his defeat.
He didn’t think that Jesus’ death would see Christ as victor, and himself Satan as the vanquished foe!
He didn’t plan that the betrayal and torture and crucifixion of Jesus, would spell an end to the power of sin and death, and would fling wide the doors of God’s kingdom with a gracious invitation to all to come to God through Christ.
He didn’t know any of that!
If he had of course, he wouldn’t have put this plan into motion!
It’s what C S Lewis pictured so well in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan offers himself as a sacrifice, in place of the boy, Edmund.
The White Witch thought she had won, but Aslan knew that her power, and the power of death would be undone through the death of an innocent substitute,
That death, not only undone, but would begin to work backwards, and that death would be swallowed up in life.
Friends, if Jesus can master and so thoroughly triumph over these forces of evil,
If he can use their evil intent, and the choices of those who would align themselves with darkness in this moment,
If he can stay the course in his mission, to bring about an unprecedented rescue of people from slavery to sin,
Then what evil that we see around us today,
Or what sin that we struggle with in our lives,
What forces that we find ourselves powerless against and are tempted to think that God himself must have his hands tied in the face of them too,
What situation in our world, do we think is beyond the power of God in Christ, and against which we suppose that the life-changing gospel must stop, fall down, and proceed no further?
I’ll tell you the answer, but you know it already.
You know it because we can see it here.
If these forces for evil,
One of Jesus’ own,
The deliberate work of Satan himself,
If they are no match for the power of Jesus, and actually end up bringing his own purposes about, we can rest assured that no opposition that we face,
Or spiritual power,
Will ever overcome, or undo the work of God in Christ, as he draws people to himself through the good news, and removes the stain of sin and rebellion.
In fact, as Jesus says here Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him, the glory of Christ is often seen most clearly, against the backdrop of darkness.
Behold your God.